The Use of Digital Technologies at School and Cognitive Learning Outcomes: A Population-Based Study in Finland




digital learning, learning outcomes, comprehensive school, teaching practices.


Recently, the use of information and communications technology (ICT) at school has been extensively increased in Finland. This study investigated whether the use of ICT at school is linked to students ‘learning outcomes in Finland. We used the Finnish PISA 2015 data (N=5037). Cognitive learning outcomes (i.e. science, mathematics, reading, collaborative problem-solving) were evaluated with computer-based tests. ICT use at school, ICT availability at school, and students’ perceived ICT competence were assessed with self-rating questionnaires. Frequent ICT use at school predicted students’ weaker performance in all the cognitive learning outcomes, when adjusted for age, gender, parental socioeconomic status, students’ ICT competence, and ICT availability at school. Further, the effect of ICT use on learning outcomes was more negative in students with higher than lower ICT skills. Frequent use of  ICT at school appears to be linked to weaker cognitive learning outcomes in Finland. This may be explained by working memory overload and task-switching during the use of digital technologies. This finding also suggests that even though students with ICT skills are good at mechanical use of digital device, they may not have abilities for a goal-oriented and self-directed use of digital technologies that could promote their learning.


Download data is not yet available.


Alatupa, S., Pulkki-Råback, L., Hintsanen, M., Ravaja, N., Raitakari, O. T., Telama, R., Viikari, J. S. A., & Keltikangas-Järvinen, L. (2010). School performance as a predictor of adulthood obesity: a 21-year follow-up study. European Journal of Epidemiology, 25, 267274.

All, A., Castellar, E. P. N., & Van Looy, J. (2016). Assessing the effectiveness of digital game-based learning: Best practices. Computers & Education, 92, 90103.

Andrews, G. G. (2008). Gameplay, gender, and socioeconomic status in two American high schools. E-learning and Digital Media, 5, 199213.

Balanskat, A., Blamire, R., & Kefala, S. (2006). The ICT impact report: A review of studies of ICT impact on schools in Europe. Brussels, European Schoolnet.

Basic Education Act 628/1998 (1998). Parliament of Finland, Helsinki, Finland.

Bryant, A. L., Schulenberg, J.,Bachman, J. G., O'Malley, P. M., & Johnston, L. D. (2000). Understanding the links among school misbehavior, academic achievement, and cigarette use: A national panel study of adolescents. Prevention Science, 1, 7187.

Carter, S. P.,Greenberg, K., & Walker, M. S. (2017). The impact of computer usage on academic performance: Evidence from a randomized trial at the United States Military Academy. Economics of Education Review, 56, 118–132.

Chen, Z. Y., & Kaplan, H. B. (2003). School failure in early adolescence and status attainment in middle adulthood: A longitudinal study. Sociology of Education, 110127.

Chen, W. F., Wu, W. H., & Su, T. J. (2008). Assessing virtual laboratories in a digital-filter design course: An experimental study. IEEE Transactions on Education, 51, 10–16.

Chuang, T.-Y. & Chen, W.-F. (2009). Effect of Computer-Based Video Games on Children: An Experimental Study. Educational Technology & Society, 12, 1–10.

Duncan, G. J., & Magnuson, K. (2012). Socioeconomic status and cognitive functioning: moving from correlation to causation. Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Cognitive Science, 3, 377-386.

Fried, C. B. (2008). In-class laptop use and its effects on student learning. Computers & Education, 50, 906–914.

Gunnell, D., Löfving, S., Gustafsson, J. E., & Allebeck, P. (2011). School performance and risk of suicide in early adulthood: follow-up of two national cohorts of Swedish schoolchildren. Journal of Affective Disorders, 131, 104112.

Hackman, D. A., Betancourt, L. M., Gallop, R., Romer, D., Brodsky, N. L., Hurt, H., & Farah, M. J. (2014). Mapping the trajectory of socioeconomic disparity in working memory: Parental and neighborhood factors. Child Development, 85, 14331445.

Hembrooke, H., & Gay, G. (2003). The laptop and the lecture: The effects of multitasking in learning environments. Journal of Computing in Higher Education, 15, 46–64.

Hu, L. T., & Bentler, P. M. (1999). Cutoff criteria for fit indexes in covariance structure analysis: Conventional criteria versus new alternatives. Structural Equation Modeling: A Multidisciplinary Journal, 6, 1–55.

Huurre, T., Lintonen, T., Kaprio, J., Pelkonen, M., Marttunen, M., & Aro, H. (2010). Adolescent risk factors for excessive alcohol use at age 32 years. A 16-year prospective follow-up study. Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology, 45, 125134.

Kaarakainen, M.-T., Kaarakainen, S. S., Tanhua-Piiroinen, E., Viteli, J., Syvänen, A., & Kivinen, A.(2017). Digiajan peruskoulu 2017 - Tilannearvio ja toimenpidesuositukset. Valtioneuvoston selvitys- ja tutkimustoiminnan julkaisusarja, 72/2017.

Kalyuga, S., Ayres, P., Chandler, P., & Sweller, J. (2003). The expertise reversal effect. Educational Psychologist, 38, 23–31.

Kirschner, P. A. (2002). Cognitive load theory: Implications of cognitive load theory on the design of learning.Learning and Instruction, 12, 1–10.

Kirschner, P. A., & De Bruyckere, P. (2017). The myths of the digital native and the multitasker. Teaching and Teacher Education, 67, 135-142.

Kokko, K., Bergman, L. R., & Pulkkinen, L. (2003). Child personality characteristics and selection into long-term unemployment in Finnish and Swedish longitudinal samples. International Journal of Behavioral Development, 27, 134144.

Martin, F. &Ertzberger, J. (2013). Here and now mobile learning: An experimental study on the use of mobile technology. Computers & Education, 68, 7685.

Mayer, R. E., & Moreno, R. (1998). A split-attention effect in multimedia learning: Evidence for dual processing systems in working memory. Journal of Educational Psychology, 90, 312.

Mueller, P. A. & Oppenheimer, D. M. (2014). The pen is mightier than the keyboard: Advantages of longhand over laptop note taking. Psychological Science, 25, 1159–1168.

Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) (1999). Classifying Educational Programmes: Manual for ISCED-97 Implementation in OECD Countries. OECD Publishing, Paris.

Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) (2016). PISA 2015 Results (Volume I): Excellence and Equity in Education, PISA. Paris: OECD Publishing, Paris.

Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) (2017a). PISA 2015 Technical Report. PISA, OECD Publishing, Paris.

Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) (2017b). PISA 2015 Assessment and Analytical Framework: Science, Reading, Mathematic, Financial Literacy and Collaborative Problem Solving, revised edition. PISA, OECD Publishing, Paris, 2017b.

Paas, F., Renkl, A., & Sweller, J. (2004). Cognitive load theory: Instructional implications of the interaction between information structures and cognitive architecture. Instructional Science, 32, 1–8.

Pitkänen, T., Kokko, K., Lyyra, A. L., & Pulkkinen, L. (2008). A developmental approach to alcohol drinking behaviour in adulthood: a follow‐up study from age 8 to age 42. Addiction, 103, 4868.

Ronimus, M., Kujala, J., Tolvanen, A., &Lyytinen, H. (2014). Children's engagement during digital game-based learning of reading: The effects of time, rewards, and challenge. Computers & Education, 71, 237–246.

Salemink, K., Strijker, D., & Bosworth, G. (2017). Rural development in the digital age: A systematic literature review on unequal ICT availability, adoption, and use in rural areas. Journal of Rural Studies, 54, 360–371.

Sana, F.; Weston, T. & Cepeda, N. J. (2013). Laptop multitasking hinders classroom learning for both users and nearby peers. Computers & Education, 62, 24–31.

Sarsour, K., Sheridan, M., Jutte, D., Nuru-Jeter, A., Hinshaw, S., & Boyce, W. T. (2011). Family socioeconomic status and child executive functions: The roles of language, home environment, and single parenthood. Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society, 17, 120–132.

Shochet, I. M., Dadds, M. R., Ham, D., & Montague, R. (2006). School connectedness is an underemphasized parameter in adolescent mental health: Results of a community prediction study. Journal of Clinical Child & Adolescent Psychology, 35, 170179.

School District Office of Helsinki (Helsingin kaupungin opetusvirasto) (2016). Helsingin kaupungin opetuksen digitalisaatio-ohjelma vuosille 2016–2019. Koulutuksen ja oppimisen digistrategia. Helsinki, Finland.

Schreiber, J. B., Nora, A., Stage, F. K., Barlow, E. A., & King, J. (2006). Reporting structural equation modeling and confirmatory factor analysis results: A review. The Journal of Educational Research, 99, 323–338.

Sweller, J., Ayres, P., & Kalyuga, S. (2011). Measuring cognitive load. In Cognitive Load Theory (pp. 71-85). Springer, New York, NY.

Tandon, P. S., Zhou, C., Sallis, J. F., Cain, K. L.,Frank, L. D., & Saelens, B. E. (2012). Home environment relationships with children’s physical activity, sedentary time, and screen time by socioeconomic status. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, 9, 88.

Van Merriënboer, J. J. & Ayres, P. (2005). Research on cognitive load theory and its design implications for e-learning. Educational Technology Research and Development, 53, 5–13.

Wastiau, P., Blamire, R., Kearney, C., Quittre, V.,Van de Gaer, E., & Monseur, C. (2013). The use of ICT in education: a survey of schools in Europe. European Journal of Education, 48, 11–27.

Wilson, K. A., Bedwell, W. L., Lazzara, E. H., Salas, E., Burke; C. S., Estock, J. L., &Conkey, C. (2009). Relationships between game attributes and learning outcomes: Review and research proposals. Simulation & Gaming, 40, 217-266.

Yang, Y. T. C. (2012). Building virtual cities, inspiring intelligent citizens: Digital games for developing students’ problem solving and learning motivation. Computers & Education, 59, 365–377.




How to Cite

Saarinen, A. I., Lipsanen, J., Hintsanen, M., Huotilainen, M., & Keltikangas-Järvinen, L. (2021). The Use of Digital Technologies at School and Cognitive Learning Outcomes: A Population-Based Study in Finland. International Journal of Educational Psychology, 10(1), 1–26.